News & Analysis

'My Guys' — Jeff Ratcliffe's favorite fantasy football rookies of the 2020 draft class

With the NFL Draft just two days away, all of the I’s are dotted and T’s crossed in my pre-draft prep. Yesterday, we released my final 2020 pre-draft fantasy football rookie rankings. In putting these together along with the Rookie Fantasy Scouting Report, I learned a ton about this year’s class. Along the way, there were players who stuck out as my guys. These players aren’t necessarily the obvious names —  they're guys who I think can outplay expectations.

[Editor’s note: Check out PFF’s 2020 Mock Draft HubNFL Draft Big Board and NFL Mock Draft Simulator. PFF Elite subscribers can also download the 1,100-page 2020 NFL Draft Guide.]

Before we dive into this list, don’t forget that you can always check out our fully updated 2020 fantasy football rankings and our 2020 fantasy football projections, both of which we’ll be updating as the players come off the board during the draft. We also have the brand new Rookie Fantasy Scouting Report and our NFL Draft Guide to get you up to speed on all this year’s prospects. And if you’re really into the draft, it’s worth checking out our NFL Mock Draft Simulator where you can run your own NFL mock drafts and see how the results compare to our 2020 NFL Draft Big Board.

Cam Akers, RB Florida State

Though he’s outside of the top four names at running back for many, Akers is a player who I think could move up the fantasy draft boards following Day 2 of the NFL Draft. A premium player since his high school days, Akers played behind a poor offensive line throughout his college career and still managed to put up impressive numbers. He also showed at the college level that he can hold his own in the passing game with 68 catches over the last three seasons. Akers' three-down skill set bodes well for fantasy success, but the key to his short-term value is landing in a thin depth chart.

Bryan Edwards, WR South Carolina

He may not have the flash of the first-round wideouts in this year’s class, but Edwards has been putting up solid numbers in the SEC since earning a starting job as a true freshman. That shouldn’t be understated. His ability to compete and excel against some of the top talent at the college level starting at age-17 makes Edwards a sneaky name to keep an eye on. There’s a chance he slips to Day 3, but that doesn’t rule him out as someone to target at a value in dynasty rookie drafts regardless of his landing spot.

A.J. Dillon, RB Boston College

If you want Jonathan Taylor at a discount, Dillon is your guy. Sure, he doesn’t come with quite the same resume, but Dillon is an absolute brick house who showed that he can carry the load in college. He also flashed impressive speed and athleticism at the Combine with a 4.53 in the 40-yard dash and a 41-inch vertical. Of course, we didn’t see him run the shuttle, and that only furthers questions about how much wiggle he has. Still, Dillon could prove to be a high-volume runner in the right landing spot.

Adam Trautman, TE Dayton

There isn’t a marquee name at tight end in this year’s class, but Trautman stands out as the best of the bunch. Many are quick to point out that he was playing against lesser competition in the FCS, which is a fair point on why we shouldn’t box score scout him. However, Trautman more than held his own at the Senior Bowl, as he outclassed his fellow tight ends, especially with his route running. Trautman isn’t a burner, but his impressive 3-cone drill (6.78) bodes well for him getting open. It could take a few years, but Trautman is my favorite tight end to break out and emerge as a high-volume fantasy option.

Tyler Johnson, WR Minnesota

Sure, he lacks blazing speed and really doesn’t pop from an athletic standpoint. But Johnson was just so darn productive at the college level. It isn’t just his nose for the end zone (he scored 25 touchdowns over the last two seasons). Johnson was also hyper-efficient on a per-route basis, ranking in the top 10 in the nation in yards per route run in each of the last two years. He was also one of the most heavily-used wideouts with a career dominator rating of 34%, which is off-the-charts good. Does Johnson have the highest fantasy ceiling? No. But he is a player who could step in and be a darn good pro who puts up consistent WR2-plus seasons in fantasy.

Jalen Hurts, QB Oklahoma

Let’s be clear that I’m much higher on Hurts for fantasy than I am for real football. That’s an important distinction to make. For real football purposes, Hurts enters the draft with a number of questions in terms of how NFL teams view him. However, if he does get a shot to be a starter, his game is tailor made for the modern era of fantasy football. As we’ve seen over the past few seasons, running quarterbacks put up fantasy numbers. In fact, it’s almost essential for a quarterback to have some mobility to be a top-10 fantasy option. Hurts has that ability and then some.

Darrynton Evans, RB Appalachian State

He won’t be picked before Day 3, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing for a running back in today’s NFL drafts. Evans was productive at App State, but he makes the list thanks to an impressive showing at the Combine. The inner Al Davis in me can be a sucker for speed at times, and Evans’ 4.41 40 time and 1.5 10-yard split really jump off the page. He’s a player I’ll be targeting in the later rounds of my rookie drafts regardless of where he lands.

Antonio Gibson, WR/RB Memphis

Speaking of speed, Gibson was one of the faster players at the Combine with an electric 4.39 40-yard dash. That number is good on its own but is especially impressive considering his size at 6-foot-3 and 228 pounds. The challenge with Gibson for fantasy purposes is his lack of a clearly defined position. Technically, he tested as a wideout at the Combine, but there’s a good chance he’s viewed as more of a running back by NFL teams. If that’s the case, we’re almost certainly going to see his fantasy stock skyrocket following the draft.

Lynn Bowden Jr., WR/RB Kentucky

Like Gibson, Bowden is a position-versatile player who tested as a wide receiver but could likely end up being classified as a running back. But, unlike Gibson, Bowden doesn’t quite have the mass for the position at 5-foot-11 and 204 pounds. Still, explosive playmaking ability and a versatile skill set are what makes Bowden especially appealing. If he lands in an offense that is willing to utilize Bowden’s full set of Swiss Army knife tools, he could be one of the more exciting deeper fantasy options from this year’s class.

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